Lillehammer, Norway – Two knee operations over the summer haven’t stopped Johnny Spillane, as the 29-year-old skied his way to a sixth place finish in the World Cup nordic combined race in Lillehammer earlier this morning.
Billy Demong, also hampered by injuries this year, followed Spillane in 14th, just under a minute behind the winner, France’s Jeremy Lamy Chappuis, and Bryan Fletcher and Brett Camerota finished 41st and 56th, respectively, closing out the U.S. Nordic Combined Team’s effort on the day.
For Spillane, who injured his meniscus while jumping this summer in Steamboat Springs, “it was a really good start,” according to Head Coach Dave Jarrett.
To fix the knee, Spillane had to endure not one but two separate operations. Because he didn’t seem to be healing after the first procedure, Spillane had to go under the knife again just two months ago, in October.
In a phone interview from Norway, Jarrett said that Spillane jumped “pretty well,” and then skied in a group for much of the cross country race, which took place in a snowstorm.
Spillane’s group got within twelve seconds of the leaders, but wasn’t able to close the gap.
For Demong, who injured his shoulder in a fall rollerski crash, Jarrett said the race was an average one, and that both his jumping and skiing should improve as the season goes along.
“We have our sights a little bit late into the season,” he said, “so we’re not in the our peaking mode by any means.”
Between the two of them, Fletcher and Camerota could have put together a good race, as the former skied fast and the latter had a good jump. Neither had the full package, though–for Fletcher, it was just “one of those days” on the race course, and Camerota’s jump didn’t put himself in the position to attack.
The Americans take on an identical competition tomorrow.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.